Sep 5, 2019

Ep 185: Ruben Oris - Vice-President, Nuclear Steam Plant Engineering, SNC-Lavalin

Vice-President, Nuclear Steam Plant Engineering
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Show notes

From Cuba to Moscow (0:26)
(0:26-5:49) Rubin explains how it was born in Cuba and attended college in Russia.

Q. You attended university in Moscow?
(0:26) Rubin Oris Valiente is the Vice President of Nuclear Steam Plant Engineering at SNC-Lavalin. He was born in Cuba when it had close ties to the Soviet Union. He received a scholarship to study nuclear engineering in Russia; he ended up living there for 10 years.

Q. You were in school in Russia when Chernobyl happened?
(1:59) During his third year of college Rubin remembers people coming and asking for volunteers to help clean up. Rubin initially volunteered, but after receiving messages from his Embassy and his professors about the scale of the incident, he and the other students passed.

Q. How did that change your view on nuclear?
(3:10) Chernobyl didn’t change Rubin’s views on nuclear; he still recognized that it is a much-needed industry. However, it did make him realize that the nuclear field needed more than just engineers to survive. After Chernobyl safety culture became more prevalent and interested in the field waned.

The Renaissance of Nuclear (5:50)
(5:50-19:19) Rubin discusses the resurgence of nuclear and how he’s preparing to pass the torch on to future generations.

Q. Is nuclear making a comeback?
(5:50) According to Rubin, nuclear has had two renaissance movements. The first, in 2010, saw a resurgence in nuclear until Fukushima happened. The field again suffered from a decline until recently, when Rubin says it became cool again.

Q. You’re in a great position of power during this most recent renaissance of nuclear.
(7:25) Rubin wants to contribute to keeping nuclear going. When he first moved to Canada, he realized there was a generation gap between different nuclear engineering roles. Rubin is trying to prepare the industry for when his generation retires, and younger people follow in their footsteps. He wants to design something interesting enough that future generations will want to carry the torch.

Q. Do most universities in Canada have nuclear programs?
(11:00) Rubin says not, and that it needs to be addressed through advertising the opportunities available to people once they enter the field. Currently, he knows of four or five universities that carry the nuclear engineering program, but that is not enough new educated members of the workforce during this renaissance of nuclear among all of the ongoing refurbishment projects. Rubin thinks the nuclear field needs to do a better job of educating the public about the benefits and possibilities of nuclear.

Q. What are some of the new and emerging technologies you’re working on?
(13:50) SNC-Lavalin has improved a new reactor design that is up to date with regulation standards and they are currently marketing it globally. SNC-Lavalin is also advertising their designs to investors, the public, and everyone to see.

Nuclear Around the World (19:20)
(19:20-27:26) Rubin discusses the nuclear industry and global differences and applications of technology.

Q. On a global scale, where do you see SMR reactors being used as compared to CANDU reactors?
(19:20) Advanced small modular reactors (SMR) are useful because they can go in remote locations, such as remote military bases, or isolated mining facilities. Small utilities that don’t want to produce a lot of capital all at once can also benefit from SMR reactors.

Q. Tell me more about your role as the Vice President of Nuclear Steam Plant Engineering at SNC-Lavalin.
(21:49) While Rubin doesn’t determine how much time is spent focusing on one type of reactor over another, he does determine how many engineers are working on a given project. He is the “Central Bank of Engineering.”

Q. What are some of the similarities and differences in training the global nuclear workforce?
(23:30) On the global scale, Rubin thinks the western world is blessed by the standards of safety and level of regulations society demands. Accidents at nuclear plants do not happen very often and the field has years of experience without any incidents. Rubin believes the nuclear industry has kept the highest standards of safety, more so than almost any other field.

Future of Nuclear (27:07)
(27:07-39:00) Rubin discusses the future at SNC-Lavalin and in his own career.

Q. Do you think engineering curriculum needs to change to make students more aware of newer technologies?
(27:07) Rubin thinks it’s a combination of curriculum changes and on the job learning. He believes that the first step is getting students excited about nuclear and the bright future of the industry.

Q. Do you think it’s financially feasible to continue to produce new nuclear technology?
(28:25) Rubin thinks the industry should continue to innovate and not just stick to one reactor design for the next 20 years. He also recognizes that eventually the industry will choose the best path. He’s already seen several designs he thinks will saturate the industry. And ones that aren’t mature enough, Rubin thinks will not move forward. He also believes that there will be another evolution of nuclear in 20 years with all new types of technology. Rubin believes humanity is constantly striving for the next level of innovation. He doesn’t think that focusing only on the one design will work, since it’s difficult to get everyone to agree on any one thing.

Q. What is SNC-Lavalin’s focus on the use of nuclear?
(32:50) Rubin says SNC-Lavalin eliminates a lot of barriers by using uranium fuels in reactors. They also have the ability to create and harvest isotopes. Recently, SNC-Lavalin helped a utility company to create isotopes. They’re focus is to improve the reactor design they have and help the SMR engineers improve their skills and training.

Q. What mark do you hope to leave on the nuclear industry?
(36:48) Rubin’s legacy wish is to leave behind people who are capable of continuing to care for the projects he started. He is also open to traveling to more countries to see how their nuclear industries work. Rubin likes to see the results of what he’s designed.

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